Like it or not most of us end up needing to take a medication from time to time. You may even have a chronic condition that requires you take a prescription drug regularly.
When you do, just be sure you’re doing it as safely as possible.
Make your medications safer with these 6 tricks
Side effects aren’t the only thing you need to worry about when taking a prescription med. These six simple steps can help keep you out of harms way…
1. Keep everyone in the loop:
Drug interactions can be dangerous and even deadly. If you see multiple doctors, be sure to inform each of them of all medications you’re taking, including over the counter products.
The easiest way to do this is keep a list, which you update regularly, on your computer or smartphone. Bring the list with you to your appointment and ask your doc to review them with you.
But don’t stop with the doctor. Your pharmacist offers an important layer of protection against drug mistakes too. So try to avoid pharmacy hopping.
Sticking with the same pharmacist keeps all of your records in one place and makes it much more likely any potential drug interactions are caught.
2. Ask questions:
When your doctor prescribes new medications for you, don’t hesitate to ask questions. It’s important that you understand why you’re taking a drug. What the med is expected to do for you. Any side effects you should watch for. And now long you will likely be on it.
And before heading to the pharmacy jot down a list of questions to ask your pharmacist too. This is part of his job and he will be happy to answer them for you.
Questions you might want to ask could include…
- What is this medication for?
- How should I take it, and for how long?
- What kinds of side effects might I experience?
- Is there anything I should avoid while taking it?
- Is it okay to take this med with these other drugs or supplements I’m on? (Show him your current list.)
Just make sure you’re speaking to the pharmacist and not a cashier who doesn’t have the same training.
3. Store drugs at room temperature:
When you get your medications home unless the label says to refrigerate it find a dry, safe spot where they will remain at room temperature. Extreme temperature… either too hot or too cold… can change how well the drugs perform. And in some cases, it may even make them dangerous
Take nitroglycerin, for example. When subjected to hot temperatures for too long this angina fighting medication can become far less effective.
Hormone based meds such as thyroid drugs are particularly sensitive when it comes to heat. Antibiotics kept in temperatures that are far too hot or cold can lead to stomach troubles or kidney problems. And if insulin becomes frozen, it can become far less effective.
Optimal temps for most drugs (check labels to be sure) is between 68 to 77 degrees. Experts say down to 58 and up to 86 are usually still fine.
4. Organize household medications:
If there are multiple people or pets in your household taking medications it’s far easier to mix up the drugs than you might imagine.
To avoid accidentally taking your husband’s prostate pill or your pooch’s heartburn drug assign every person in your household a color. Then mark the tops of everyone’s medicine bottles with a magic marker or fingernail polish in their assigned color.
Do you or a loved one sometimes get confused about your dosage schedules? Perhaps you find yourself missing a dose sometimes. If so, invest in a pill organizer that allows you to divide your meds up by day and even time of day if needed.
5. Check expiration dates:
Did you know just like milk or canned goods medications have expiration dates? And they’re given for a very good reason.
You may have guessed that drugs which are out of date can lose their strength. And that’s true. But what most folks don’t realize is certain drugs can become stronger or even toxic.
To avoid accidentally using outdated medications mark your calendar, or set at reminder on your smartphone, to check the expiration dates on all prescription and over the counter meds in your home once or twice a year. Toss anything that has expired.
6. Don’t crush your pills:
Pills can sometimes be tough to swallow. But don’t make the mistake of crushing or cutting a pill without getting the thumbs up from your doctor or pharmacist.
Many meds are designed with special coatings to be time released. This allows them to enter your bloodstream slowly, and not all at once. Crushing the pills, or in some cases simply cutting them in half, can make them ineffective. Or even worse, dangerous.
If you find it difficult to swallow pills, check with your doctor for permission to cut or crush a pill. And if that’s not possible ask about alternatives, such as liquids.
Sometimes you simply can’t avoid taking medications. Just make sure you’re doing it as safely as possible.